WHARFEDALE’S weekend trip to Preston Grasshoppers was not an attacking festival of rugby while the match failed to live up to expectations, with the reverse fixture between the two sides being a superb spectacle.

Dale took to the field with a much-changed line-up from the side that defeated Preston 57-18 in September, but it was still one of quality and youth. Sadly, this was not to be their finest hour. They were desperate to continue the flowing, fast coast-to-coast rugby that swept away Sheffield and Chester but the dots never joined up and the hosts deservedly won 27-12.

The opening exchanges seemed to be going smoothly for Dale and a couple of penalties saw the visitors with an attacking line-out in Hopper’s 22. Three phases after the successful line-out Dale gave away a penalty and Preston escaped. Following a line-out scenario, hooker, Harry Thompson, standing at first receiver, crashed over for an unconverted try.

Brilliant handling by the hosts saw them extend their lead with the second try coming from Jake Maher. William Hunt added the 2 points to take the score to 12 – 0.

The visitors did gain some advantage when Preston’s Harry Swarbrick was yellow carded for a dangerous high tackle. They soon used the man advantage and after a few phases, a good run from Cicognini, the ball was spread left for Oscar Canny to cross the whitewash. No conversion but Dale had troubled the scorers.

Just before the interval, ‘Hoppers’ extended their lead with a penalty from Hunt after Cicognini was yellow carded for a high tackle.

Preston Grasshopper’s third try came from sustained pressure built up by the whole team. They ran a penalty from inside their own half and went through eight phases of play before before Man of the Match, Will Riley, scored an unconverted try. Could Dale bounce back? They won the restart and Ryan Carlson put Preston on the back foot. Three phases later a pass was sent harmlessly into touch. Several penalties were awarded to Preston and the hosts took full advantage as Tom Lee went for over for the home side’s fourth try.

Wharfedale now set up camp in Hopper’s 22. Seven penalties later (including what looked like a deliberate knock on) Sam Gaudie pooped over to score and Tom Davidson added the conversion.

The referee then blew for full-time to signal the end of a mixed campaign for Wharfedale. The Travelling Faithfull had been cheered up by news that was filtering through from the Avenue. The Foresters producing a great display to win their semi-final against Tynedale.

All who follow t’Dale can look forward to one more game next Saturday when the Foresters play in the final. They will be playing Billingham 2nds who beat Driffield 2s 38 – 26. The match will be played at Malton and Norton RUFC (YO17 &EY) on 29t April with a 3pm KO.

Wharfedale Hodgson; Gaudie (Prell 47), Walters (Davidson 56), Cicognini, Canny; Verity, Macnab (Macnab 66); Beesley, Hirst (Meehan 62), Dickinson, Borrill, Hedgley (Smith Jnr 78), Smith Jnr (Baldwin 40), Green, Carlson and replacement not used (M.Spears).